According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, more than 220,000 “nose jobs” are completed each year. That makes it one of the most popular cosmetic procedures in the country, and the most common facial plastic surgery procedure. But has rhinoplasty always been so in-demand? There is a fascinating history to this procedure that helps shed some light on its present-day popularity.
The Historical View of the Nose
First, it should be acknowledged that the aesthetic significance of the nose is nothing new. It is one of the most prominent facial features, and its harmony (or disharmony) with surrounding facial features can have a huge impact on personal aesthetics. There is literature dating back to the medieval era showing that people cared about the size and shape of their noses, and perhaps even entertained the notion of changing their nasal shape.
Though this may seem a bit silly today, the nose was long viewed as an external signifier of a person’s character. In fact, the nose figured prominently into the 18th Century practice of physiognomy. That is, the belief that there is a scientific basis to judge a person’s virtue by the way they look.
For evidence of this practice, look no further than to the writings of Johann Kasper Lavater. Lavater, a self-proclaimed theologian, published essays in which he analyzed the facial appearances of people in his community, focusing on the forehead and chin as well as the nose. According to Lavater, this was really all he needed to evaluate a person’s moral virtue and intellectual seriousness.
Though this all seems patently absurd to us today, Lavater’s thinking was highly influential. There are numerous literary works from his era that suggest a preoccupation with the nose and other facial features as indicators of character. The most famous example is probably the classic French play Cyrano de Bergerac (somewhat loosely remade as the Steve Martin film Roxanne), which includes the immortal line, “A great nose indicates a great man.”
Modern Attitudes Toward the Nose
We have come a long way, and these days, you will not find many people who would argue outright that facial appearances indicate intelligence, integrity, or valor.
The nose does play an important role in balancing the surrounding facial features, and ultimately in providing a harmonious appearance. A lot of people probably do not realize just how much of their sense of self is wrapped up in the size and shape of their noses. When we perform rhinoplasty procedures for our patients, we often find them crying happy tears, or otherwise becoming highly emotional, when they see the end results.
As for nasal aesthetics, today’s patients are less interested in getting the “perfect nose” so much as they just want a nose that fits naturally with their other facial features. This often means adjusting the size of the nose, or in some cases correcting the shape and structure, but always with the intention of subtle natural-looking results.
The History of the Rhinoplasty Procedure
Rhinoplasty, as we know it today, began in the 1880s when a Michigan-based ear, nose, and throat doctor named John Orlando Roe published a paper about correcting the “pug deformity.” This paper is generally credited as being the first-ever documentation of a rhinoplasty procedure.
Dr. Roe’s work was groundbreaking for a number of reasons. Most notably, he was the first surgeon to ever perform nasal surgery for purely aesthetic reasons. (Earlier, more primitive versions of rhinoplasty existed, but were used exclusively to treat noses that had been malformed due to war or a traumatic accident.) Dr. Roe’s patient was a young man in his 20s, who suffered from extreme self-consciousness because of his oversized nose and developed a phobia of being out in public.
Dr. Roe performed the first closed rhinoplasty on this young man. Post-surgery, the patient reported a significant increase in his overall quality of life— a notable milestone in the history of plastic and cosmetic surgery.
Dr. Roe’s work established rhinoplasty as a viable way to improve both respiratory function and the aesthetics of the nose. Nevertheless, rhinoplasty was long considered to be a last-resort procedure. Due to the more primitive tools, combined with the relative lack of anesthesia and sedation options, nose jobs were fairly high-risk. What is more, they were painful, and the results were often difficult to predict.
Historical Fact: Plastic surgeons used to inject paraffin into the nose to try to give it a particular structure or shape. This proved to be unstable, and the practice was abandoned. It is worth noting that paraffin was also used in some of the earliest breast implants.
Rhinoplasty methods became more refined during the 1950s, prompting various Hollywood icons to seek their own nose jobs. These actors include Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe, and even John Wayne.
The Modern Approach to the Rhinoplasty Procedure
Today, rhinoplasty is incredibly common, and widely accepted throughout society. Thanks to improvements in medical technology, the procedure is quick and safe. The recovery time is limited, and surgeons enjoy greater control over the final results.
So, what is involved in a modern procedure? Rhinoplasty refers to any procedure that involves the manipulation of bone, cartilage, and tissue in order to change the size or shape of the nose. Many patients get the procedure done for purely aesthetic reasons. Some of the most common reasons people get a cosmetic rhinoplasty include:
- A large dorsal hump
- The tip of the nose is turned upward
- A bulbous-looking nose
- A nasal bridge that is too wide or too narrow
- A nose that is not proportional to the surrounding facial features
Many patients also choose to get it to correct issues with their breathing.
One of the major advances in rhinoplasty is the evolution of open and closed rhinoplasty procedures. A closed rhinoplasty means that all of the surgical incisions are made inside the nose. The upside is that this prevents any visible scarring. The downside is that surgeons have slightly less room to maneuver their instruments, and may be more limited in the structural or anatomical changes they can make. By contrast, open rhinoplasty involves an incision made just below the nose, potentially resulting in a small scar, but granting the surgeon more room to work.
The standard for what constitutes a successful nose job has changed, too. In earlier iterations of the procedure, results tended to be very dramatic. In other words, patients who had a rhinoplasty performed often looked like they had “gotten work done.” There was nothing subtle or natural about it.
Today, most patients, as well as most plastic surgeons, prefer results that look beautiful and natural. Many surgeons will tell you that their job is to make the facial features more harmonious, the overall facial appearance more refreshed and revitalized. The goal is to change the way the patient looks without making it obvious that they have had plastic surgery.
Anesthesia methods have also improved, and today’s plastic surgeons will usually recommend general anesthesia. Not only does this mean a pain-free experience, but it also ensures that the patient “sleeps” through their surgery, which tends to last around two hours.
While any surgical intervention can be risky, medical advances have made rhinoplasty very safe. Moreover, choosing a qualified facial plastic surgeon can help reduce risks, such as anesthesia complications. While the recovery period will typically include some swelling, bruising, and discomfort, most patients feel close to normal within a week or two.
As rhinoplasty procedures have advanced, more and more celebrities have been open about their own cosmetic procedures. Just a few examples of famous rhinoplasty patients include Tyra Banks, Jennifer Aniston, and Iggy Azalea.
Why People Choose to Get a Rhinoplasty Now
All of this begs the question: What are some of the factors that have made rhinoplasty such a popular plastic surgery procedure? There are a few contributing factors worth highlighting.
Improvements in Technique & Technology
One of the main reasons why rhinoplasty has become so popular is that the techniques and technologies available have gotten a lot better. This means that patients are more comfortable during and after their surgery. The risk of complications is lower, and the results tend to be much more in line with patient expectations. What was once a fairly rare and dramatic procedure has gotten to the point where it is almost routine.
Digital Communication & Social Sharing
Another reason why nose jobs have gotten more popular is that our physical appearances are front and center, more than ever before. Thanks to “selfies” and tagged photos on social media, your face is in front of lots of people each and every day. And, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has also been a massive uptick in video conferencing via tools like Skype and Zoom. Not only does this mean other people see your face, but it also means you have to look at your face, noting any imperfections or issues you would like to correct.
Focus on Health and Wellness
A more general, cultural shift toward holistic health and wellness is also important. It is worth reiterating that while rhinoplasty is often associated with cosmetic changes, it can also be a valuable medical procedure for treating obstructed breathing, snoring, and even sleep apnea. In some cases, your surgeon may recommend pairing your rhinoplasty with a septoplasty, which can repair a deviated symptom and provide better, clearer breathing.
Less Social Stigma
A final reason why rhinoplasty has grown in popularity: There is much less social stigma than there used to be concerning plastic surgery. Self-love and self-esteem have been embraced as vital components of mental health, and those who choose to make alterations to their physical appearance typically find acceptance for their decision.
Am I a Good Candidate for Rhinoplasty?
Thanks to all the ways in which rhinoplasty procedures have advanced and improved, getting a “nose job” is a widely available option for most patients who wish to change their facial appearance.
To confirm that you are a good candidate for a rhinoplasty procedure, it is always best to schedule a consultation with a board-certified facial plastic surgeon. Your surgeon will evaluate your nose, take some information about your medical history, and verify that you are qualified for a safe, successful procedure.
Most often, the best candidates for rhinoplasty:
- Are in good health overall, with no serious underlying conditions that might impede their healing.
- Do not smoke, or are willing to give up smoking for a prolonged period of time.
- Have talked with a facial plastic surgeon and have realistic expectations about the procedure, recovery, and results.
Conclusion: Now is the Time to Consider Rhinoplasty
The rhinoplasty procedure has a long and fascinating history. This history suggests that, from early on, people across the world have recognized the aesthetic significance of the nose. And as the rhinoplasty procedure becomes even more commonplace, it creates a safe, efficient, and effective way for men and women to improve their look.
Are you ready to learn more about the benefits of getting a nose job, or confirm that you are a good candidate for this popular procedure? If you live in Beverly Hills or the surrounding area, we invite you to schedule a consultation at Eos Rejuvenation.